Musicians of the world, unite!

Photo Feature

Volume 113, No. 6June, 2013

Todd Bryant Weeks

Live music raises everyone’s union spirit. On May 1 (International Workers’ Day), musicians from Local 802 and the union’s Justice for Jazz Artists campaign marched in the labor community’s annual May Day Parade. Two ensembles performed: a ten-piece marching band led by Arun Luthra, and a six-piece group under the baton of Larry Siegel. Local 802 members, officers and staffers stood shoulder to shoulder with immigrants’ rights groups, public sector unions such as SEIU and 32BJ, and the New York City Taxi Workers Alliance. The parade route, which extended from Union Square to City Hall Park in Lower Manhattan, rang out with tunes such as “Down by the Riverside,” “John Brown’s Body,” “When the Saints Go Marching In,” and “Get Up, Stand Up” by Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. Later, at City Hall Park, Recording Vice President John O’Connor joined Larry Siegel and his band in O’Connor’s original song “Poverty Line.” The crowd, made up mostly of other union workers and their families, was highly appreciative. “We feel strongly that Local 802 musicians should be the first phone call that other unions make when organizing demonstrations and parades,” said organizer Shane Gasteyer. “It makes sense to have the best union bands supporting other workers in their efforts to protect the rights they enjoy, and, whenever possible, to expand their union’s presence in the workplace.” Immigration reformers who marched on May 1 are backing President Obama’s proposed legislative amendments focused on a visa program for lower-skilled workers, among other amendments. The New York City Taxi Workers Alliance has most recently been protesting a sweeping 12-point rules package proposed by the city that would allow taxi companies to pass down the costs of repairs and owners’ summonses onto drivers and raise the cost of leasing a vehicle by $7,000 annually. Justice for Jazz Artists, which is enjoying continually expanding support, seeks pension benefits and recording protections for musicians who work in major NYC jazz cubs. Several other AFM locals are in the process of forming J4JA coalitions in their own jurisdictions. All in all, this year’s May Day was a powerful display of how live music and organized labor complement one another – perfectly.

All photos: Walter Karling